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The low swing of cloud tendrils between tree branches, the mist of your breath and the quiet that seems only to exist in winter forests: far from being a reason to hang up your trail shoes, winter conditions make a whole new sport of trail running.
Whether you’re splashing along in the mud or dodging puddles, winter trail running (safely enjoyed, of course) is good for body and soul.
In the spirit of frosty laces and running toques, we’ve chosen some of our favourite coastal trails to help inspire your next winter run. So layer up, throw on your extra-gnarly trail shoes, and get out there!
Luckily for year-round trail runners, the 'wet coast' is reliably snow-free...mostly.
Baden Powell Trail: Lynn Canyon to Deep Cove
North Vancouver, British Columbia
Flickr/Guilhem Vellut (CC by 2.0)
Distance: 12 km one-way but can be done in shorter legs
Trailhead: Multiple trailheads; suggested: Lynn Valley Ecology Centre
Accessible by public transit on either end, this run-through section of the Baden Powell Trail makes a perfect half-day escape from the city. The trail can be done in either direction, but from west to east there is a net elevation loss, not to mention the promise of world-famous donuts at the end. Really, there’s no contest.
Starting at the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, enjoy dizzying views of the rushing water below before heading into a sea of evergreens, where the crowd quickly thins out. Most of this trail is quiet and forested, with the occasional road crossing. Be aware of the network of mountain bike trails that occasionally cross your path - they can add several kilometres to your run if you veer off course. Otherwise, the Baden Powell Trail is very well marked.
Shortly before the descent into Deep Cove village, you’ll come to Quarry Rock, a lookout with a sweeping view of Indian Arm. Descend into the village and treat yourself to a donut that will actually melt in your mouth. You’ve earned it!
Read more about this trail: vancouvertrails.com/baden-powell-deep-cove-to-lynn-canyon
Sarah Point to Wednesday Lake
Lund, British Columbia (Sunshine Coast)
Distance: 12 km (one way)
Trailhead: Park in Lund and take the Lund Water Taxi to Sarah Point.
This trail run is one part workout, three parts adventure.
The Sunshine Coast Trail is a 180-km long backcountry route that meanders down the Sunshine Coast from Desolation Sound to Jervis Inlet.
The first section of this epic trail, Sarah Point to Wednesday Lake, passes canyons and winds through a forest of old-growth Douglas fir and giant western red cedars. It also offers panoramas of pristine Desolation Sound. Depending on the season, there’s a good chance of spotting herons, bald eagles, seals, sea lions, loons and beavers as you move inland from the ocean’s edge to secluded Wednesday Lake.
From Wednesday Lake, it’s a few short kilometres back to Lund along a gravel road, which can be driven (if you have a kind friend willing to pick you up), walked or jogged. Trying to rack up those kilometres? Make it an out-and-back. Just be sure to check your schedule with Lund Water Taxi, since they run less frequently in the off-season.
Read more about this trail: sunshinecoastcanada.com
Thetis Lake Trails
Victoria, British Columbia (Vancouver Island)
Flickr/Paul McLean (CC by 2.0)
Distance: 5 km (loop)
Trailhead: At the far corner of the Thetis Lake parking lot.
With their gently undulating, well-maintained paths, the Upper and Lower Thetis Lake trails are the perfect way to ease into your winter trail running routine. Starting near the lakeshore of Lower Thetis Lake, the trail meanders through lush evergreens that often part to reveal pretty lake views.
If you’re looking for a longer or more technical challenge, turn onto the Seaborn Trail at one of the trail junctions. This will take you off the beaten path, towards Prior and Mackenzie Lakes.
Read more about this trail: victoriatrails.com/trails/thetis-lake
East Sooke Park’s Coast Trail
Sooke, British Columbia (Vancouver Island)
Distance: 10 km (one way)
Trailhead: Pike Road park entrance (end at Aylard Farm)
This scenic coastline trail has a bit of everything that makes the West Coast special, from the Douglas fir, western hemlock, and Sitka spruce of the coastal rainforest, to the salty air and crashing waves of a rugged coastline. At Alldrige Point, a provincial heritage site, take a breather and check out the Coast Salish petroglyphs.
This trail ends at a heritage farm, of which little remains, save for an apple orchard. Arrange a shuttle or pick-up with friends. If you’re planning for a longer run, you can double your distance by heading back to Pike Road along the same trail, or by taking a series of inland trails.
Read more about this trail: vancouverisland.comtrails/coast-trail
Weather on the East Coast is less predictable and trail runners might do themselves a favour by checking trail reports - where available - before hitting the trail.
Cape Jourimain, New Brunswick
Distance: 6 km (loop)
Trailhead: Near the Cape Jourimain Nature Centre*
Home to 10 unique ecosystems contained within its 621 hectares, Cape Jourimain has plenty of natural beauty to distract trail runners. With different types of forests, marshes, tidal flats and sand dunes, it is no surprise that Cape Jourimain is a protected area.
The cape has three different trails, the longest of which is Trenholm Trail. Run past salt marshes, wooded areas and old homesteads, cross a causeway and complete the loop in a woodland portion of the National Wildlife Area on Trenholm Island.
Enjoying the landscape? Extend your run to include some coastal scenery by tagging the 2-km Lighthouse Trail loop onto the end of your run.
*The centre itself is closed during winter.
Read more about this trail: capejourimain.ca
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Flickr/Dennis Jarvis (CC by 2.0)
Distance: 7−8 km (out-and-back)
Trailhead: On the right of an unpaved driveway along Duncan’s Cove Road, just before the village.
With sweeping views of Nova Scotia’s rugged coastline, it’s easy to see why Duncan’s Cove has a reputation as one of the best coastal hikes in Nova Scotia. And running the trail might make it even better.
Crashing waves and a barren, rocky landscape make a moody backdrop for spotting seals, porpoises and even pilot whales. Old WWII bunkers and granite cliffs add to the mystique of this nature reserve. Let's just say we wouldn't blame you for taking some extra 'breathers' to admire the scenery.
Read more about this trail: Click here
Port Joli Head Trail and Harbour Rocks
Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia
Distance: 8.7 km (return)
Trailhead: Kejimkujik Seaside parking lot
Coastal forest, crashing north Atlantic waves and bogland all feature along this flat-yet-epic trail.
At the headlands, look for seals as you listen to the cobble beach roll with waves. Take notice of the large boulders that have been left behind by glaciers that have long since retreated. It’s a breathtaking display, in sunshine or rain.
This park experiences very little snow cover during the winter, making it an excellent option for a winter run. Just be sure to double-check conditions before you go — and take care on the boardwalk, which can get slippery in the rain.
Read more about this trail: novascotia.com/port-joli-head-kejimkujik-seaside
Got any tips to offer for cold weather running?
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